Chicago White Sox

Original Published Date: October 20, 2015

After a few key off-season acquisitions to complement their all-star first baseman, it looked the White Sox were setting themselves up for a run at the playoffs.  However, it just didn’t come together in the South Side and once again the White Sox fell short.  It’s been a common theme that we believe can be tracked back to their poor drafting and lack of acquisition in Latin America over the past ten years.  The good news is that it looks like that might be changing.

Carlos Rodon was drafted in 2014 and became a reliable starter for the team this year.  Carson Fulmer, their 2015 first round pick could also make quick work of the minor leagues with a chance to help the big club in late 2016 or 2017.  Frankie Montas, acquired as part of the Jake Peavy trade is moving very quickly and has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.

From a positional player standpoint, Micah Johnson is ready and should probably have played more in 2015 than he did.  He was held back due to poor defense but we’ve never seen that as a major liability and believe his time will come in 2016.  Tim Anderson, the White Sox top prospect has impact talent and could see significant playing time in 2016 if he can improve his approach.  Finally, uber-athletic Trayce Thompson is also ready and could see significant playing time next year.

1. Tim Anderson (SS)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 AA 513 79 5 46 49 .312 .350 77.8 4.4 .391

The White Sox selected Tim Anderson as the 17th overall pick in the 2013 first year player draft.  He has the high athleticism that the White Sox love to draft and is starting to translate that athleticism into in-game production.  In 125 games in Double-A, he posted a .775 OPS, but was fueled by a .394 BABIP and 11 triples.   He still loves to swing the pole as he walked only 20 times in over 500 plate appearances.

Scouting Report:  Anderson’s carrying tool is his plus running ability, stealing 49 of 62 bases in 2015. However, unless he can learn some plate patience, he will not be hitting at the top-of-the-lineup and the speed will not play as well.  Here’s the math:  the .394 BABIP will not continue and if we assume a more reasonable .333 BABIP with a 20% strikeout rate, that should put him at a .260 batting average with a sub .300 OBP.

The hit-tool is still underdeveloped with a very aggressive approach and a penchant to strikeout more than his swing suggest.  His setup is unconventional as he has a wide stance which doesn’t allow him to produce much leverage in the swing. The hands though are impressive as he’s able to make adjustments and fight off difficult pitches.  That said, he’s an incredibly hard worker and therefore I would not count out Anderson improving on his approach.

Defensively, Anderson has held his own at shortstop. He has a plus arm and has improved his footwork, particularly with his ability to go to his right. It’s not perfect and once again, he needs repetition, but the athleticism and arm should allow him to stay at shortstop.

Fantasy Impact:  Anderson has a chance to be an impact fantasy player and that is what is fueling his ranking.  There is 40 plus stolen base potential at a premium position and that should get the attention of every fantasy owner.  However, there is risk.  Unless he improves his approach, he could be hitting in the number nine slot, dramatically limiting his fantasy potential.

2. Carson Fulmer (RHP)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 R,A+ 23.0 17 5 2 3.52 10.17 1.96 1.13

Taken as the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Carson Fulmer was considered one of the top college pitchers in the draft by some and dismissed by others as a future reliever.   Clearly the White Sox saw the former and paid him a $3.4 million dollar signing bonus and the hope that he would quickly move through the minor league system like Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon had done prior.  So far so good, as the White Sox have already advanced him to High-A and he had little problems in 23.0 innings, posting a 1.96 ERA, striking out 26 and walking nine.

Scouting Report:  Fulmer has two plus pitches in his fastball and curve.  The fastball sits 92 to 94 MPH and can touch higher with his curve grading out as a plus, maybe even a double-plus pitch.  It’s a hard curve thrown 78 to 81 MPH with heavy, tight rotational spin. His change-up lags the other two pitches but it can also get swings and misses.  The arsenal has top-of-the-rotation written all over it.

The problem is the delivery.  If you are high on Fulmer, you see a max effort delivery in the mold of Max Scherzer.  If you’re on the opposite end, you see a reliever, but likely with the stuff of a closer.  The interesting thing is he did both in his college career at Vanderbilt.  As a freshman, he was used exclusively as a reliever and split time as a sophomore where he saved 10 games.  In his junior year, he was used exclusively as a starter, throwing three complete games.

The White Sox see him as a starter and so do we.   The ceiling is a number two starter with a realistic ceiling of a grade below that.

Fantasy Impact:  Starter or closer?  It doesn’t matter as much to the fantasy owner assuming you play in a traditional five category format.  Fulmer is therefore pretty valuable in the Dynasty League game.  Furthermore, the White Sox have a history of moving elite college pitchers through the system quickly resulting in positive results at the big league level.  Add it all up…Fulmer is likely a Top 50 prospect.

3. Frankie Montas (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA 112.0 89 37 3 3.86 8.68 2.97 1.22

Signed in 2009 for a mere $75,000 by the Red Sox, Frankie Montas made his way to the White Sox as part of the 2013 Jake Peavy trade.  While Peavy helped the Red Sox win the World Series, Montas could turn out to be a steep price to pay as he’s starting to harness his big fastball and has turned into a legitimate pitching prospect.

Scouting Report:  Two things stand out when you first lay eyes on Frankie Montas.  One is that he throws really, really hard.  Over the course of a three inning outing in last year’s Arizona Fall League, he sat 95 to 97 MPH with two triple-digit readings.  The second thing you notice is that while his baseball card says he’s 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he’s much larger than that.  He’s a flat-out, big boy.

Besides his 80-grade fastball, Montas throws a plus slider with great lateral movement that is difficult to pick up and consequently, is a true swing and miss pitch.  He also throws a change-up, which is a step-down from his fastball and slider, but is still a quality pitch.  The only thing holding back Montas from being a top-of-the-rotation arm is his lack of control; but even that has taken a step-up this year.  In 112.0 innings in Double-A, he walked 3.86 per nine, which was a significant improvement from earlier in his career.

Despite seeing some time in the majors at the end of the season, the White Sox will likely start Montas at Triple-A to begin the 2016 season.  There will clearly be ups-and-downs as he continues to work on repeating his delivery, but he has the upside of number two starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Montas is still under-the-radar in most Dynasty Leagues but after he makes our Top 100 list, and surely others, that will change. The stuff is electric with the chance for high strikeouts.  While the mechanics are messy, the White Sox have a good history of cleaning that up.  It’s time to buy-in.

4. Micah Johnson (2B)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 R,AAA 326 58 8 36 38 .316 .376 80.1 9.2 .370

Micah Johnson won the starting second base job out of spring training, but despite batting .270 over his first 83 plate appearance was demoted on May 14th.  The reason cited was poor defensive play.   He did boot three balls in 98 chances, but it sure felt like the White Sox pulled the plug awfully quickly.  Johnson returned to the minors and played great, posting an .870 OPS with a 63K/32BB strikeout-to-walk ratio and stealing 28 bases.  After performing well in his September callup, he does seem like the answer at second and should get his chance again in 2016.

Scouting Report:  Johnson still has the ceiling of a dynamic leadoff hitter with double-plus speed and enough contact skills and plate discipline to get on-base at a .330 plus clip.  He also has enough power and strength to drive the ball to all fields while popping out a handful of home runs annually.  So offensively, he appears to be ready, has his defense improved?

I’ve seen Johnson multiple times throughout the past two years and while the defense is not plus, he’s never struck me as a liability at the position.  He’s athletic with good reaction times although the footwork could use some repetition.  I believe he’s the best option at second for the White Sox going forward and any limitations he currently has can be addressed at the big league level without sacrificing much.

Fantasy Impact:  Fortunately as a fantasy owner, we don’t have to worry about defense except when it leads to lack of playing time.  The fantasy upside is high with the potential for 30 or more stolen bases with a .270 plus batting average and a handful of home runs.

5. Spencer Adams (RHP)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 170 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A,A+ 129.1 142 43 8 1.25 6.68 2.99 1.24

Taken in the second round of the 2014 draft, Spencer Adams had a solid season in Low-A posting an impressive stat line, particularly when you consider at 19-years-old, he was the second youngest pitcher in the Sally League.   In 19 starts, he pitched to a 3.24 ERA with 73 strikeouts and only 11 walks.  While extremely athletic and already able to repeat his delivery, the 11 walks was both impressive and a little surprising.  You just don’t see 19-year-olds with that level of control.  I guess the White Sox thought the same thing and promoted him to the Carolina League in August where he pretty much did the same thing.

Scouting Reports:  Adams is a young, athletic, and most of all, physically projectable pitcher.  He’s really a VP of Player Development dream.  While the stuff is not currently elite with his fastball sitting 91 to 93 MPH, the pitching mechanics and body all scream that he’ll add velocity.  His best secondary pitch is a hard slider that he throws 86 to 87 MPH with excellent two-plane break.  He also is working on a show-me curve and changeup that could become an average pitches in the future.

The stuff will get better and with present plus control, Adams has the makings of a number two starter.  He does rank lower than both Montas and Fulmer, but if we were ranking these three pitchers on upside only, he would be at the top.  As we constantly say, always invest in athletic pitchers as they will figure out their delivery.  Adams seems to have already figured that out.

Fantasy Impact:  Adams is a sneaky pick in a first year Dynasty League because Low-A pitchers are rarely sought after.  I would go a couple of rounds early for him as he could move quickly through the minor leagues.  The upside is seven to eight strikeouts per nine with excellent ratios.

6. Trey Michalczewski (3B)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 210 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
2015 A+ 474 59 7 75 4 .259 .335 75.9 9.4 .326

The White Sox like to draft young high school players and then challenge them early in their career to see how they will fair.  The process didn’t work well with Courtney Hawkins as he stalled in the Carolina League after the White Sox promoted him as an 18-year-old.  They repeated the pattern with Trey Michalczewski after drafting him in the seventh round in 2013.  In 2014 they promoted him to the Carolina League at the ripe-old age 19 and then started him again there this past year.  While he didn’t blow out the level, he played well with a .259 batting average and a very respectable 113K/50BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Scouting Notes:  A switch hitter, Michalczewski has a nice swing, showing plus bat speed but currently with more doubles-power than over-the-fence power.  In the future, the White Sox will likely add loft to his swing and that combined with his strength and bat speed should allow him to produce at least above-average future power (20 to 22 home runs).  The approach is also solid with a good understanding of the strike zone.   He is a little more confident from his natural right-side but there is enough contactability to project at least an average batting average on both sides of the plate.

Defensively, Michalczewski is adequate at third base with a strong arm but needs to improve his footwork.  While most observers believe he can stay in the dirt, the bat could also play at first or in a corner outfield.   Speed is not part of his game, but he’s also not a clogger with a chance to see a handful of stolen bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  Michalczewski should be considered in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 players.  The swing is solid with a chance to hit 20 home runs and stay at third base.  The upside is a $13 to $15 player with some upside.  That’s not a star but a serviceable option at third base or corner infielder in a deep fantasy league.

7. Micker Adolfo (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2019-20
2015 R 83 14 0 10 3 .253 .323 69.9 6.5 .356

Micker Adolfo is the “ultimate player you can dream on”.  The White Sox agreed and put their money where their mouth is and signed the 16-year-old Dominican to a $1.6 million dollar signing bonus in July of 2013.  While the potential is immense, he’s very raw; particularly his hit tool and the White Sox have correctly taken it easy with him.  In fact, he repeated the AZL and was having a good year when he broke his leg sliding into second and missed the rest of the season.  The injury also caused some ligament damage but the White Sox insist he will be 100% to start the 2016 season.  Assuming he is, the White Sox could start him in full season ball in the Midwest League.

Scouting Report: At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Adolfo is long and lean with plus raw power that he demonstrates at ease in batting practice.  In fact, his BP’s have become “must watch” events with long bombs hit with his easy, leveraged swing.  He did improve his contact substantially from his dismal 2014 year where he was clearly overwhelmed.   In 83 at-bats, he struck out 25 times but continued to show his uber-aggressive approach by walking a mere six times.  The hit tool has a long way to go and candidly, I’m not sure what we can expect in the future.  He is athletic and works hard but the hit-tool has far to go, that it’s hard to put a future grade on it.  He does have average current foot speed, but as he adds weight, that could regress a grade.

Defensively, Adolfo profiles as a classic right fielder.  He’s got enough athleticism to be able to effectively track balls with a double-plus arm.

Fantasy Impact:  There is a ton of power upside with Adoflo – like in 30 plus home run future power.  However, he’s sushi raw and has at least three or four years to go before we see him in the major leagues.  I’m not sure the hit tool will develop to more than below-average and therefore, you could be looking at a .230 hitter with 25 to 30 home run power and a ton of strikeouts and poor on-base skills.  In fact, the upside might be a Chris Carter type of player.  If you own him, you need to be patient as there will be a lot of ups-and-downs.

8. Trayce Thompson (OF)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 AAA 388 53 13 39 11 .260 .304 79.6 5.5 .295

If it seems like Trayce Thompson has been on prospect list for a long time, that’s because he has.  Drafted in the year of Trout (2009), Thompson finally made his way to the major leagues in early August and got off to a great start, despite playing sparingly.

Thompson comes from a basketball family with his father Mychal, having a 15 year career after being selected 1:1 by the Trail Blazers.  His brother Klay just won an NBA Championship with Warriors.  The blood lines are there and while Thompson is also extremely athletic, at 6-foot-3, he didn’t have the natural height of his father and brother and chose baseball.

Scouting Notes:  Thompson has the athletic look that VP of Player Development crave.  He’s got above-average speed, raw power but has always struggled to make enough contact to let the tools play.  In 2015, that changed as he posted an 18.9% strikeout rate, which was a significant improvement from his 23% and 25% strikeout rate in 2013 and 14.  The approach is also solid as Thompson shows a good understanding of the strike zone and can work a walk.

He has all the makings of a late bloomer with the hit-tool the last to come.  If that continues to improve, he could be a 20 HR/20 SB player with a .260 batting average.  It was a similar projection we had for Steven Souza.  That said, we didn’t expect Souza’s approach to take a huge step backwards.  If the hit tool doesn’t develop, than the ceiling is a fourth outfielder.

Fantasy Impact: Thompson played well in his brief MLB debut but most people missed it.  I think there is a chance for him to get playing time in 2016 and that should make him a sleeper entering the 2016 season.

9. Jacob May (OF)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 5-10 Weight: 180 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
2015 R,AA 405 51 2 35 38 .274 .327 81.2 6.7 .331

I’ve found myself writing about a lot of legacies in my capsules this year, commenting along the way on how old I feel.  Well, this one “takes the cake”.  Jacob May, the White Sox third round draft pick in the 2013 draft is the grandson of Lee May; former all-star big leaguer with the Reds and Orioles to name two.  I grew up in Baltimore and cut my baseball teeth on the late 60’s and 70’s Orioles team – the teams that May played on.  Jacob is only two years younger than my son.  Like I said, I’m feeling really old.

Scouting Notes:  Unlike his grandfather, who had 30-grade speed, Jacob is a double-plus runner with the ability to steal 30 plus bases per year.  May is a switch hitter, making good contact from both sides of the plate with a compact but sometimes loopy swing from the left side.  He does shorten up with two-strikes and his strikeout rate has improved throughout his professional career.  He hasn’t shown any power but he’s strong with bat speed, so I would not rule out him developing a little bit of power later in this career.

Defensively, May is a plus defender and should be able to stick up the middle.  Already in Double-A, he could challenge Adam Eaton for playing time very soon.

Fantasy Impact:  May is an intriguing fantasy option.  If he gets full-time at-bats, the upside is 30 stolen bases with a .260 batting average and a handful of home runs.  However, if he doesn’t hit enough, he could also slot into a fourth outfielder and not help your team very much.  If you have 20 minor league slots, I would take a gamble.

10. Courtney Hawkins (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
2015 AA 300 39 9 43 1 .243 .300 66.7 6.1 .332

Courtney Hawkins might remain on this list until he starts playing in Japan.  Don’t laugh, that could happen.  I think the White Sox pushed Hawkins too fast after he played well in limited at-bats in the summer after being drafted 13th overall in the 2012 first year player draft.  He wasn’t’ ready and never got a chance to learn to hit against inferior pitching.  He’s now in Double-A, but just can’t control the strike zone – posting a 67% contact rate and a 6% walk rate. He’ll be 22-years-old next season and will likely start the season back in Double-A.

Scouting Report:  Hawkins has plus raw power that when he makes enough contact, translates into home runs during game time.  However, that just hasn’t come easily for him.  He struggles mightily with good off-speed pitches and will go fishing far too often.  Unless he improves either his strikeout rate or walk rate, he will not make it in the big leagues.  He was more selective last year, but fell back into old habits, brought on by better pitching.

Fantasy Impact:  Hawkins is still owned in far too many Dynasty Leagues.  If you own him, I would drop him in leagues that roster fewer than 400 players.   I would monitor his progress and if the walk rate improves, I would jump back on the bandwagon.

2016 Emerging Prospect

Jake Peter (2B)

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, Jake Peter skipped over Low-A and went directly to the Carolina League and held his own.  You expect that from a college bat but it’s good to see that he wasn’t overwhelmed, posting a .260/.330/.348 slash line with a 89K/53BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.  He also has good speed that he showed by stealing 23 of26 bases.  The upside might be a utility player, but he can hit so there’s a chance for more.


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